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Data sharing is here to stay and for long

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Bhimashankar Sanga
Elearning Evangelist, Occasional Writer & Full-Time Coach, Obsessive-Compulsive Thinker, Unapologetically Idealistic, Infoholic, Sybaritic.

Mandatory #WhatsApp privacy policy update will now allow Whatsapp to share all your WhatsApp calls, messages, contacts, profile data, group data to Facebook, with your permission. This is a dystopian nightmare for any right-thinking person as #privacy is a cornerstone of any technology revolution. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même — the more that changes, the more it’s the same thing. However, 90%+ of existing WhatsApp users will shrug off and agree to the new terms without a second thought. What is more disconcerting is far too many are either unaware or apathetic or simply trust that Whatsapp’s new terms are benign and always will be.

What is ironic is the fact that how can #Facebook be very serious about privacy whose raison d’etre and growth strategy is to track, monitor, and use people’s data and its patterns to provide its service. If a private conversation is eavesdropped by a product, then its trustworthiness becomes questionable and skepticism about the company turns into outright disbelief. All in the name of ‘convenience’, people pay an exorbitant price for the ‘privilege’ of potentially being under someone’s microscope. Privacy and security are abstract concepts and thus aren’t compelling. The glaring hole here is no one likes to sacrifice convenience for security. On the shoulders of these obligated changes, ride the profits of many “modern” robber barons. The entire purpose of this dubitable privacy policy is data-rape.

Facebook’s excuse for collecting data from its range of products to improvise its service is sheer baloney. The downside of this new policy is that there will always be some lascivious twats in the company who will snoop on your private lives under the guise of improvising service.

There may never be an end to data theft and data leak, not until there is a massive data breach involving people’s private data, that the majority of people finally wake up and decide enough is enough. But there was the Equifax data breach, that effectively splayed open the lives of at least half the people in the United States to identity thieves, and what happened after that? Nothing. All our identity information may be being bought and sold right now and we’ll never know until we find our accounts drained and gigantic loans fraudulently made in our names, ruining our lives.

Corporates have indoctrinated a philosophy that ‘Sharing is normal, privacy means you have something to hide, people with something to hide are bad and wrong and probably criminals or terrorists or pedophiles or other undesirables.’ People have been convinced that nothing about their lives is worth anything, therefore, it’s not worth protecting the privacy of anyway, so they’re trading something worthless (privacy) for convenience. Companies like Facebook or Google or Amazon or Microsoft etc. could be collecting personally identifiable data on each one of their users and lying through their teeth about it, and either selling the data to ‘third party partner companies’ or using it in their own marketing departments to sell you more things that likely will also spy on you and collect more data on you.

Unfortunately, Whatsapp has become a verb, an essential service just like Google. There is no other contemporary messaging platform that has become as ubiquitous and relevant as Whatsapp. Even if one is wary of new privacy updates, one cannot switch easily to another messaging platform because of Whatsapp’s ubiquitousness, relevancy, and intuitiveness. Whatsapp has reached such a critical mass that one will become obsolete, if not on it. With its statuses, payments, groups, and in-app-business-ecosystem with a possibility of third-party service integration, it’s a mini social network in and of itself. Whatsapp seamlessly facilitates the exchange of 100 billion messages per day. i.e. 1,157,407 messages per second. No other messaging platform doesn’t even attempt any of that and hence won’t be able to make even a dent in WhatsApp’s empire. Unless programmers figure out an equivalent easy to use, end-to-end encrypted messaging platform that respects user’s privacy, switching to other platforms remains an elusive goal. 

#Signal is proliferating precipitately and helping spread end-to-end encryption to everyone. Signal is viewed by security experts as the gold standard for secure mobile messaging. Signal’s servers do not get to see phone contacts in the phone book, as the numbers are hashed beforehand to muddy the trial. Signal does not have a record of your contacts, social graph, conversation list, location, user avatar, user profile name, group memberships, group titles, or group avatars. But it’s adoption rate is really poor and is mostly preferred by privacy diehards, activists, and cybersecurity nerds.

The data sharing is here to stay at least for the time being. It’ll take changing hearts and minds before that changes.

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Bhimashankar Sanga
Elearning Evangelist, Occasional Writer & Full-Time Coach, Obsessive-Compulsive Thinker, Unapologetically Idealistic, Infoholic, Sybaritic.

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